There was no shortage of sprint excitement on day four in Cali. In the men’s 400m, South Africa’s Lythe Pillay avenged his fourth-place finish in last year’s world U20 final, overcoming illness and injury to do so, while Britain’s Yemi Mary John won the women’s crown, and later wore one of her own.

Like Tebogo in the 100m final, Pillay even had time to celebrate on his approach to the finish. With such a strong end to his race, he eased down the finishing straight, pumping his arms as he went, and crossed the line in a PB of 45.28 to triumph ahead of USA’s Steven McElroy in 45.65 and Bahrain’s Yusuf Ali Abbas in a lifetime best of 45.80.

Canada’s Tyler Floyd also ran a PB, his 46.01 seeing him finish fourth ahead of Thailand’s Joshua Atkinson (46.31).

“It was a difficult journey after coming in fourth last year,” said Pillay. “My hope was to come back and challenge for the title this year. I got covid in February and was hospitalised. It was a difficult year emotionally as well, trying to keep my hopes and faith up.”

In the women’s final, John was narrowly ahead off the final bend and looked in control as she held off Kenya’s 16-year-old Damaris Mutunga and India’s Rupal.

Once over the line, she looked into the crowd and pointed at her head, receiving a crown in return. First putting it on her own head, she later shared it with Pillay as they celebrated their successes on a victory lap.

Running 51.50, 19-year-old John achieved her third PB from as many races in Cali to win. The race was also another huge breakthrough for Mutunga, who went into the championships with a PB of 53.71 set at the Kenyan trials for the event in Cali, and leaves with a national U20 record of 51.71 to go with her silver. Rupal also ran a PB of 51.85 for bronze, to go with her mixed 4x400m silver.

“I didn’t run many races this year, so I felt this was the one to run a personal best in,” said the winner. “I have this crown because I am a queen.”

In the 400m hurdles final, USA’s Akala Garrett timed her run to perfection – the 17-year-old blasting away early before easing back and leaving enough at the finish to surge ahead for victory.

A world U20-leading time, her 56.16 gained her the win by more than half a second, silver going to Sweden’s Hanna Karlsson with 56.71.

Garrett’s compatriot Michaela Rose stumbled off the penultimate barrier but held on to get bronze in 56.86, while South Africa’s Anje Nel finished fourth in 57.47 and Michelle Smith of Virgin Islands fifth in 57.48. The top five finishers all set PBs, with the mark a national U20 record for Smith.

(World Athletics U20 Championships CALI 22)

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